Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reading An Ideal Husband again gave me the chance to recall just how much I love Oscar Wilde. I love him. His wit is brilliant and his words are moving. So, I would like to talk for a moment about the brilliance of Oscar Wilde. He is poised and elegant, classy and scandalous, aloof and revealing, comic and serious, conniving and candid, honest and deceptive. I find it interesting that the adjectives above are equally applicable to Wilde's style as to his characters. They seem to epitomize everything that excites me about his writing.  Oscar Wilde does two things simultaneously (the simultaneousness being the most important and difficult achievement): he entertains - amuses - (mabel chiltern) and he reflects a human desire that is also a weakness (the "ideal" husband). These are the two aspects of his work that always make me laugh, allow me to connect, and keep me coming back for more. He is able to express great truths through wit, and wittily express absurdities like truth. Here are some of my favourite examples:

Philanthropy seems to me to have become simply the refuge of people who wish to annoy their fellow-creatures. 

Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometime are.

I love talking about nothing, father. It's the only thing I know anything about. 

My dear father, if we men married the women we deserve, we should have a very bad time of it. 

Lord Arthur Goring: My dear Mrs. Cheveley, I should make you a very bad husband. 
Laura: I don't mind bad husbands. I've had two. They amused me immensely. 

Mabel is perhaps the source of some of the funniest. She is that girl everyone knows ( or even if you don't know her personally you have an image in your mind so exact it's as if you did know her) who's life is so trivial and yet she is entirely content. You are jealous and yet not because the meaning isn't there, only the contentment. Wilde uses her as the most brilliant comic device. The things she says are just ridiculous, out of this world, and yet, we've all thought them, somehow, sometime and censured them. (take the philanthropy quote as an example). Oscar Wilde's writing, his creations, offer both an escape and a great many truths - entertainment and wisdom. He is brilliant. 

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